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  1. #1
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    Enough praise: criticize current touring models here

    In this thread, we provide constructive criticism on specific issues with current mass-market models.

    This is not a hate thread.
    This is not a love thread.

    Advice in this forum comes almost uniformly as "I got an xyz and I love it". While probably true, this does not help the discerning shopper discern between similar bikes. Yes, the real answer is "see what feels best" but touring models are not exactly common in a LBS (4 within a mile of me, none carries a single tourer) and direct comparison is difficult. Help prospective buyers by pointing out specific issues.

    Up for discussion (sorted by price):
    Windsor Tourist: $600
    Jamis Aurora: $850
    Novara Safari: $850
    Surly Long Haul Trucker: $930
    Novarra Randonee: $950
    Fuji Touring: $950
    Trek 520: $1250
    Rocky Mountain Sherpa 30: $1500
    Cannondale Touring 1: $1800
    Koga-Miyata ***Traveller: ?
    (miss any? current models only)
    ("custom" models removed. They're very expensive and sidelining the conversation)

    You may give praise only as a direct counterpoint to a stated negative aspect of another model. Please do not respond "but I love my xyz!" It would be more constructive to say "I never had an issue with the problem you're describing".

    - Please give specific criticisms. Criticizing price alone is not helpful.
    - Please do not attack each other, stick to the bikes.
    Last edited by monkeyography; 02-26-08 at 05:45 PM. Reason: This is not a thread about Grant Petersen

  2. #2
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    Fuji and the Windsor bike are pretty much the same bike. I don't like their 1" threaded stem, but that's not to say it won't be fine. They both need lower gearing and pretty much everything on the bike is pretty low end.

    Out of all the bikes I think the REI Novara is the best value, it uses better quality tubing than all the others in the price range and also better components. Great customer support and you can get them at 20% off when they have a sale. The R550 canti's work better than the cheap cantis on the fuji/windsor, and better than the Tektro cantis on the LHT. It also uses the best rims out of all of the bikes except for the DT Swiss TK 7.1's on the Cannondale.

    I almost wonder why more people get the LHT instead of the Randonee? I got an LHT but only because I wanted to build one up from the frame up.

    If you like bar end shifters you can easily sell the tiagra STI shifters.

  3. #3
    I'm made of earth! becnal's Avatar
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    Why focus on the negative? Accentuate the positive!
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

  4. #4
    Senior Member late's Avatar
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    LHT

    If you can spend more, call Waterford.
    We are as gods, we might as well get good at it.
    Stewart Brand

  5. #5
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Windsor Tourist: Capable and adequate for a long tour in every way except inadequate gearing. Some may be put off by their flavor of ad copy, but it doesn't bother me.

    Surly Long Haul Trucker: Nice bike, but I hate bar end shifters.

    Cannondale Touring 1: Stupid choice of components, the 2 is a far better bike for touring.

    Rivendell Atlantis: The fact that it comes from Rivendell is enough reason for me to not even consider it. I want to puke every time I read an opinionated article on their site, or hear someone refer to PBH or an S24O. Not sure exactly why but their particular flavor of BS is like fingernails on a chalkboard to me. But on the plus side if you like this bike I know where you can get a $100 hatchet to go with it. To be fair they probably sell quality stuff I just can't get past the BS.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by monkeyography View Post
    (miss any? current models only)
    Uh, yeah, you missed plenty! How about Waterford Adventure, Bruce Gordon BLT or Rock'n'Road, Bilenky Midlands Tour, Co-motion Nor'wester and Americano, ... Some of these are pricey, granted, but if you're going to put the Rivendell Atlantis on that list, you ought to consider these as well.

    I have a Bruce Gordon Rock'n'Road, and it is hands down a great bike. But it's not perfect. For example, Bruce doesn't drill through the fork crown and the brake bridge. There are threads on only one side (the reverse side, actually, suitable for mounting front and rear fenders), so if you wanted to mount a dynamo headlight you can't use a crown mount. Also, the chainstays are 44 cm long for most models, which is a little shorter than Trek, Surly and some others at 45 cm. This could be an issue if you have big feet. On the plus side, the bike is tough as nails, and the racks have an unbelievable strength to weight ratio. I have the extended rear rack, and it's lighter than an Old Man Mountain White Rock that I had on my commuter bike.

    Mike

  7. #7
    lost in the ozone
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    Windsor and Fuji, wrong gearing and inconsistent wheel build quality.

    Jamis wrong crank set , low end hubs.

    Surly, hard to beotch about anything other than color and availability

    REI is on a par with Surly, REI service and warranty is superior ( if you are near a store)

    Trek 520 and C-Dale, both are geared wrong and over priced. C-dale Touring 2 is a better value and more capable.

    Rivendell, I Love the bikes and I can dig Grant's Koolaid . But having to chain a pit-bull to the bike to keep thieves away is not my idea of touring.

    Bruce Gordon builds a very good touring bike but I'm not about to kiss his wonky *** to get him to build me one.

    Other custom builders most good, all pricey. I'd rather spend the money on the tour instead of the frame sticker.

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    Koga-Miyata - they don't include a kitchen sink.

  9. #9
    tgbikes
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    It would be much more fun to go off on GP, his you need surgory if you can't fit my bike attitude. However I have a LHT no real complants, but I cut off the spoke holders way too ugley and there is 25 places to tape bundles of spokes on the bike and racks.
    A child learns what the village teaches!

  10. #10
    Just ride it. MrPolak's Avatar
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    So this will be criticism based on actual experience or rants based on imagined qualities of the bikes we infer from staring at pictures and reading specs?

    Ok, it will be the latter.

    The LHT, whose looks I adore in the 700c incarnation and would buy the 56cm size, is an abomination in the 54cm and smaller frames. You're basically looking at an old steel-framed MTB with drop bars. Why bother unless you get the 700c wheels?
    Last edited by MrPolak; 02-26-08 at 07:27 AM.

  11. #11
    lost in the ozone
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    Quote Originally Posted by MrPolak View Post
    So this will be criticism based on actual experience or rants based on imagined qualities of the bikes we infer from staring at pictures and reading specs?
    I used a oujia board

  12. #12
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MrPolak View Post
    So this will be criticism based on actual experience or rants based on imagined qualities of the bikes we infer from staring at pictures and reading specs?
    Obviously the latter

    In fairness a lot can legitimately said based strictly on the specs and one's general touring experience. That said a lot of what is posted on this forum is based on not much of either let alone actually touring on the bikes in question. Folks here are sometimes willing to express expert opinions even if they haven't toured their first thousand or even hundred miles. You have to filter based on your impression of the poster.

    In the interest of full disclosure and since you raised a question I will say that the only one listed that I have ridden on more than a test ride is the Windsor. I have ridden that one across the US. So value my comments or not based on that.

  13. #13
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    [QUOTE
    ""Bruce Gordon builds a very good touring bike but I'm not about to kiss his wonky *** to get him to build me one.""


    I did not know I had a "Wonky ***"
    Don't know what it is - but I don't want you to kiss any part of my body!!
    If you have any peroblems with me I would really like to discuss them.
    Call me and I will call you back on my "dime" to talk.
    Regards,
    Bruce Gordon
    www.bgcycles.com

  14. #14
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MrPolak View Post
    The LHT, whose looks I adore in the 700c incarnation and would buy the 56cm size, is an abomination in the 54cm and smaller frames. You're basically looking at an old steel-framed MTB with drop bars. Why bother unless you get the 700c wheels?
    I tend to agree at to some extent, but think that in concept that 26" wheels on smaller frame sizes makes sense. The thing that I wonder about is at what point the line should be drawn. I would have thought that it might make sense on only their smallest size (42 cm?).

    OTOH: I know folks who think it would be great if they used 26: on all sizes.

  15. #15
    Senior Member Fueled by Boh's Avatar
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    I totally agree with staehpj1 on rivendell. especially when it comes to 650b wheels. why would two mediocre foreign steel bikes ride differently due to some hair-brained wheel circumference difference? Just get a surly... or anything else.

    The 26" wheels on the smaller LHTs makes perfect sense to me now that I have one. I almost went with the crosscheck due to the wheel difference among the LHTs. The 26" wheels keep your toe clips/ toes off of your fenders and mudflaps, and it is lovely!

    The Trek 520: great build in general... but, the head tube is far too short across the size range and the rear rack is out of its league when it moves out of the commuting realm.

  16. #16
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    I would have bought an Aurora, figuring I could regear it anyway as needed, but went for LHT (and I still wouldn't mind a full-on mountain bike crankset) because of the clearance for big fat tires which could not be retro-jiggered back onto the Aurora. And, while the LHT blue looks better in person than in online pix, it is still pretty ugly. Architecturally, the spokeholders seem precious (and they don't fit well w/ my kickstand). Maybe if I had crappier wheels...

    I am extremely happy w/ 26" wheels, great stable geometry, boatloads of clearance (on the 54) instead of tryiing to jam 700c wheels in where they don't belong. Maybe I should have just waited to find an old rockhopper in a dumpster but hey, instant gratification and shiny parts (at the time)!

  17. #17
    Villainous huerro's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
    I tend to agree at to some extent, but think that in concept that 26" wheels on smaller frame sizes makes sense. The thing that I wonder about is at what point the line should be drawn. I would have thought that it might make sense on only their smallest size (42 cm?).

    OTOH: I know folks who think it would be great if they used 26: on all sizes.
    26 inch wheels are also the standard in the developing world.

    I don't have the direct experience touring, but I have spent a fair amount of time riding bikes in remote places in Latin America and would only want to tour there with 26 inch wheels. Even in the biggest cities in Central America (with the exception of Guatemala City and Antigua) I did not see any 700c bikes let alone 650b.

    Patches, boots, and kevlar spokes only last so long and it can be a long way on some bad roads to get what you need. I would also avoid 9 or 10 speed drivetrains and disc brakes if heading into the wilds.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by bgcycles View Post
    [QUOTE
    Bruce Gordon
    www.bgcycles.com
    I just wanted to say that I got to meet Bruce at the North American Handbuilt Bicycle Show in Portland. I did not say this to him, but he has been one of my heroes for many years...it was great to just walk up to his booth, meet him, and chat a bit. He had a stunning Ti bike at the show, which he confessed was not "how I make my living"; that's the touring bikes, I gathered -- but an incredible demonstration of his creativity and skill.

    One thing that I noticed at the show is that among the hundreds of bikes on the floor there was -- literally -- only one bicycle at the show that you could have ridden off the show floor and across the country. There just isn't a huge demand for the kind of bikes that bike tourists want. Though I chatted up lots of builders who "would" build me a touring frame, there weren't that many builders who actually *do* build lots of touring frames.

    Just wanted to take this opportunity to thank Bruce for supplying bikes for the touring community and serving as a model for younger builders...you gotta know that any custom builder or manufacturer in the touring market has looked as his frames, his geometries, and his accessories and been "inspired" and learned a bit. Not a lot of builders have put as many tourists on the road as Bruce has.

    Does this post qualify as a kiss?

    BTW, back to the topic of this thread -- I think if you purchase any off-the-shelf bike in this price range you would be happy as long as you get something that fits; you budget a few hundred bucks for changes/upgrades during the months of shakedown riding you will do before a tour. Speaking just about the one I own (the Trek 520); I would highly recommend swapping out the stock crankset for lower gearing, as I did. There are anecdotal reports of the Trek's wheels being less than totally rugged but mine are in great shape after more than 2,000 miles of heavily loaded commuting during a Seattle winter. The wheels are perfectly true; and no flats on the stock tires. The brakes are wearing on the rims, I have lots of climbing and steep descents on my commute -- about 3,000 feet of climbing every day w/several full-brakes-on descents on every commute. If I had to guess I'd say I'll need to replace the rims after about 6,000 miles.

  19. #19
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    The long haul trucker with the 26" wheels is a pig. I built one up using nice parts and it weighed 35lbs without racks....handled like a tank (a slow one). I sold the frame, built up some xt/a719 wheels using the hubs from the 26er, and bought a cannondale t1 frame to swap parts to. If anyone wants to get rid of their newish tiagra brifters, I have some dura ace barends for ya.

  20. #20
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by yater View Post
    If anyone wants to get rid of their newish tiagra brifters, I have some dura ace barends for ya.
    You can have my Tiagra brifters when they pry them from my cold dead fingers

  21. #21
    Crazyguyonabike
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    I own both a 56cm Surly Long Haul Trucker and a 20" Novara Safari. Ok, the negatives:

    On the LHT, my front toe overlaps with the front wheel - this is with 700x40 Schwalbe Marathon XR, and fenders (no mudflap). I'm not sure if there would still be overlap with thinner tires and no fenders, possibly not, but this is the setup which I would reasonably want on this bike. For some reason I didn't pick up on this during my test rides at the shop. It is enough for me to pick another bike as my favorite tourer - I just don't like having to be careful when pedaling at slow speeds and around corners.

    Also, I do not personally like the spoke holder on the LHT. It interferes with the mounting of my favorite kickstand, the Greenfield.

    Finally, the paint job on the LHT was not stellar. There are two points underneath the seat stays where the paint is very rough and basically flaking off. It looks like a spot where the bike was suspended while being painted, since it's exactly the same on both stays. The paint around the dropouts is very flaky, but I think that is quite common.

    Other than that, the LHT is quite a nice bike. I have heard frequently that the LHT is pretty much a copy of the Rivendell Atlantis, so I was surprised to find out that the same size in the Atlantis (56cm) they go to 26" wheels. I wish they had done that with the LHT, then the toe overlap would probably be less of an issue. Also, this could have maybe been my dream expedition tourer - but sadly, I am probably going to sell the LHT in favor of my Novara Safari.

    As for the Safari, I prefer riding it to the LHT, quite honestly. It feels more nimble, and my hands do not hurt as much on those trekking bars as they do after a couple of hours riding on the drops of the LHT. I didn't list this as a problem with the LHT because it's more an issue with drops in general, I think, for me at least. I just find myself wanting to ease off when going over bumps on the LHT, but not on the Safari. The LHT does have its bars set up correctly - the steerer tube was uncut, so I can get the bars as high as I want.

    The Safari has disk brakes, which are very nice but have their own negatives. The main one is fitting of racks. The rear rack on the Safari is bolted together and doesn't seem to be all that strong (I can move it from side to side just using my hand, it's not hard to do and this rack is obviously not very rigid). I would like to fit a different rack, but on the rear the disk brakes have made the designers of this bike put the rack mount high up, above the disk mount. This means a standard rack such as the Tubus or Jandd just wouldn't fit - they would be way too high. There are other options, such as Old Man Mountain, using the quick release and attaching to the brake bosses, but I'm honestly not all that impressed with the side-to-side rigidity of that rack when using the brake bosses... there's no triangulation and it doesn't have the same bulletproof feel as the Jandd Expedition. Another option would be the Axiom racks - they make one made for disk mounting, which would probably work, but I am also interested in the Axiom Tour du Monde. It's stainless steel, rated at 150 Kg (really) and has the adjustable mount points on the bottom. Anyway, the main point is that there are options here, which is why the Safari is still in the running. Honestly, if I absolutely had to use their stock rack then I'd be a lot more negative.

    On the front of the Safari, the disk brake housing is still an issue, but you can fit a rack like the Tubus Tara without any big problems. You might get some rubbing from some bits like bolts on the inside of your pannier, depending on the bag. I currently have an Old Man Mountain Cold Springs front rack, which uses the quick release and clamps. It's not perfect, but it does the job and it does seem to work very well.

    The Safari frame and disk brakes also prevented me from mounting my Greenfield kickstand, though I did eventually manage to do it using some hardware to extend the upper arm, which meant I could mount the stand further away from the disk brake. I posted about it here:

    http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/forum...hread_id=74003

    It's not perfect, my heel comes very close to the stand now, and I may still go back and try the two legged stand I was using previously (someone suggested cutting the legs on the two legged stand to make it more stable).

    I don't like the fact that they cut the steerer tube on the Safari at the factory. I am having some trouble getting the bars high enough when using my Softride suspension stem (which necessitates angling the bars downward in order to have the cables clear the stem). I am probably going to replace the front forks with Surly Instigator (as suggested by my local REI bike shop guys) in order to get a strong fork with uncut steerer tube. Incidentally it will also have brake bosses, which will make for an even stronger attachment point for the Old Man Mountain rack.

    Other than that, the Safari is a very nice bike for me. I enjoy riding it, and it may serve as a good model for any future custom framed expedition tourer that I get made. I really like the trekking bars and the Gripshift shifters. The bike handles very well.

    Currently my dream bike is the Thorn eXp - looks like a really stiff frame, 26" wheels and just a very good workhorse. One day!

    /Neil
    Last edited by NeilGunton; 02-26-08 at 11:07 AM.

  22. #22
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    I bought my LHT as a frame, so I can't comment on the parts spec for the complete bike, but the only thing I don't like about my LHT is that the top tube could be a bit shorter. I have the 56cm version, but would prefer the 58cm version to minimize seat to bar drop. However, even at the 56cm size, the top tube is a hair long, which means the 58cm model would have been too long. I think a 58cm LHT with a 22.2" effective top tube would have been about ideal for me. Otherwise, I love the bike.

    Chris

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by MrPolak View Post
    So this will be criticism based on actual experience or rants based on imagined qualities of the bikes we infer from staring at pictures and reading specs?
    I was hoping this would be based on actual experience. Reading specs on the website we can all do (I have a spreadsheet).

    It is extremely difficult to test more than one frame and I was hoping to draw on the experience of people who have.

  24. #24
    The Rock Cycle eofelis's Avatar
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    My comments will concern some touring models on the smallest end of the size range.

    I had an XS Novara Safari. It was my first "nice" bike. I only used it for riding around town and commuting, grocery shopping, etc. It was a nice little bike, and the butterfly bars took some getting used to. It had lots of room for fat tires and carried a load great. But later, after riding a steel frame I decided the ride of the aluminum frame was too harsh for my liking.

    Some of the parts and the steel fork from the Safari went on to a NOS 13.5in Randonee frame I got at an REI garage sale. I like this little bike a lot. It's just my commuter bike but it could be a tourer just fine. It has loads of tire clearance and no toe overlap for me. It looks like a mtn bike with down tube shifter bosses.

    I got a 17in 2002 Trek 520. It was my first road-type bike. I did road rides and a few short tours with it. It didn't have much tire clearance with fenders, which was my biggest gripe. I finally decided it was too big for me and wanted to go to 26" wheels anyway.

    I got a 42cm LHT as a frame and built it up. The top tube length on this was shorter than to 520, which I liked. This bike is as heavy as a couch and almost as fast, but it's smooth and stable. On mine the biggest complaint I have is the placement of the bottle cages. The one on the seat tube is so high that I can't put a large bottle in it. I do have toe overlap, but it hasn't been a problem. I don't do trackstands
    Gunnar Sport
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  25. #25
    Senior Member robow's Avatar
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    I will only comment on the three that I have had experience with.

    The Trek 520 MSRP pricing is a little high unless you can get it on sale. The gearing is a little too high (so what's new). Stock rack is marginal for loaded touring but worked out OK for credit card touring or commuting. The worst thing and most difficult to remedy is that the head tube is too short and bars too low for many people (staehpj1 is the exception here), if you like your handlebars to come up anywhere close to your seat height. All in all, still a decent bike from an excellent company.

    Fuji touring was OK in all regards except that there were some spoke breakage issues on the stock wheels, but that was a few years ago and I have heard that it has been resolved. Stock gearing was too high. So many things like 1" threaded vs. 1 1/8" threadless, sti vs. bar ends are in my opinion mostly preference.

    Surly LHT, ugly colors, again this is totally my opinion but I can't understand what it is they have against a decent paint job? I agree with the above about the spoke holders, no need for them. And again, since I was the in-betweener 54 vs 56" frame, the wheel size issues. And yes it is heavy but so are most steel touring bikes.

    And yet when I look back at the photos from when we first started touring years ago, any of these would have been a Cadillac.
    Last edited by robow; 02-26-08 at 02:59 PM.

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